Reminder: shopping malls are clearly not public spaces

An effort to hold a protest at the Mall of America this Saturday was met with a predictable response: the mall is not a public space and the protest is not welcome.

The organizers, who are calling for a protest as part of the national “Black Lives Matter” movement responding to recent police shootings of unarmed black men, vow they will carry on as planned in the mall’s rotunda.

The protest had drawn 2,000 confirmations on its Facebook page as of Wednesday afternoon. Saturday also is one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.

Mall representatives have said that a demonstration at the mall would violate policy, and protesters could be removed, arrested and banned…

“Mall of America is a commercial retail and entertainment center. We respect the right to free speech, but Mall of America is private property and not a forum for protests, demonstrations or public debates,” mall management said in a statement.

As an alternative, the mall and the city of Bloomington urged protesters to use the former Alpha Business Center lot, which is public property adjacent to the mall, according to a letter from the mall posted on the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook page.

The number one function of a shopping mall is to make money and protests can distract from that. Yet, shopping malls are one of the rare spaces in American suburban sprawl that you can find large numbers of people. One of the downsides of sprawl is that there are few public gathering places in centralized locations surrounded by population density. Sure, there are parks, public parking lots, and other public facilities but they tend to be spread out, often require driving, and don’t necessarily attract the attention of many other people.

Given the spread of protests along highways, I wonder if protestors could move instead to the public roads leading into the mall. There are likely restrictions on using these spaces as well but at least the protestors would be on public property.

5 thoughts on “Reminder: shopping malls are clearly not public spaces

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